By Jesse Medalia Strauss and Julian Cohen-Serrins
This is the first post in a series covering the recent World Science Festival in New York City
It was a gorgeous night in New York City, the dark blue sky visible through the vast glass walls of Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. The perfect setting to share food, drinks and experiences with some of the smartest and most preeminent names in the entire field of science. This was the Opening Gala of the third annual World Science Festival. A most exquisite kick off to five days of forty different events, teaming with vibrant discussion, discovery, and displays of the latest and most innovative breakthroughs in the world of science and technology. A festival put together and built on the insights of some of the smartest, most interesting, and tragically overlooked people on the face of the Earth.
The night began with a welcoming ceremony, which featured drinks, hors d'oeuvres and excellent conversation. Breaking through a barricade of photographers and reporters, we were able to get within inches of icons such as theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Lawrence Krauss, actor John Lithgow, painter Chuck Close, and cosmologist Steven Hawking.
The second phase of the Gala was a fantastic and often comedic compilation of science themed acts on the stage of Alice Tully Hall. This program included a lighthearted lyrical vision of a submerged post-global warming New York, a song about calculus performed by some of the cast members of the current Broadway production of South Pacific, an unforgettable live performance by violinist Yo-Yo Ma, and a tribute to and speech by Dr. Hawking, whom the Gala was honoring.
Following the stage performances, we saw a silent film, directed by British artists Al+Al, set to a live orchestra, conducted by composer Philip Glass, and narrated by John Lithgow. Entitled Icarus at the Edge of Time, it is based on the book for younger readers by Columbia University theoretical physicist Brian Greene, co-founder of the World Science Festival with his wife, producer Tracy Day. Both the book and the film re-imagine the famous Greek myth of Icarus, set in deep space where a black hole replaces the sun.
After the film came the Gala reception, set in the spacious and newly designed lobby of Alice Tully Hall. There were fancy cheeses from all over Europe, imported meats and delicious desserts. We had a brief yet delightful conversation with Chuck Close, listened to music, and got yelled at by one of Dr. Hawking’s bodyguards when we tried to take a picture. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Alan Alda, who helped organize the entire event and spoke during the performance. We had admired him on television and hoped to tell him so, but that was not a total loss. All in all, we had a wonderful time and if the Gala is any precursor, we will be in for a fun and exciting few days.
Jesse and Julian will continue to cover the 2010 World Science Festival. Check back throughout this week and next for fun and insightful reviews, photos, and video of this year’s events.